In this study, we interviewed 30 students training for three areas of healthcare: medicine, nursing, and medical family therapy (MedFT). Through grounded theory analysis of these interviews, we looked to understand how these providers connected their own experiences with illness to their clinical work, particularly in including patients’ family members in care. The majority of participants, and especially those in medicine and nursing disciplines, described a tension between their desire to connect with patients and families and their developing definition of professionalism. For others, the impact of students’ personal experiences with illness seemed to provide a different definition of professionalism, making these personal connections more purposeful. We found that students described four significant processes around a core category of defining professionalism: (1) facing discrepancies between ideals around being a healthcare provider and students’ lived experiences, (2) coping with the challenges of healthcare culture, (3) navigating relationships between own experiences with illness and patients’ experiences, and (4) attempting to connect more closely with patients and their families. Implications suggest that training programs across disciplines consider how to support self-of-the-provider reflection, relational perspectives of illness, and students’ abilities to connect with patients and include families in care.

Keywords: medical family therapy, illness narratives, collaborative care, family-centered care.

LLU Discipline

Marital and Family Therapy


Counseling and Family Sciences


School of Behavioral Health

First Advisor

Knudson-Martin, Carmen

Second Advisor

Hernandez, Barbara Couden

Third Advisor

Oloo, Winetta Baker

Fourth Advisor

Williams-Reade, Jackie

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded


Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Clinical Clerkship - Standards; Attitude of Health Personnel; Continuity of Patient Care; Patients - Psychology; Family Health; Health Knowledge; Physician-Patient Relations

Subject - Local

Medical Family Therapy; Illness Narratives; Collaborative Care; Family-Centered Care; Relational Perspectives of Illness



Page Count


Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Collection Website



Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives